To the list of alternative diets like flexitarian, paleo, and fruitarian, we can now add seagan. A seagan is a person who ascribes to a vegan diet, with one caveat -- seagans eat fish.
Image care of Penguin Group
Amy Cramer and Lisa McComsey recently released "Seagan Eating: The Lure of a Healthy, Sustainable Seafood + Vegan Diet," a book that seems like a firm departure from their first, "The Vegan Cheat Sheet," at least at first glance. And the team doesn't necessarily disagree.
"For the ethical vegan, eating seafood is murder," they write. "For the environmentalist, it's disastrous. For the clean eater, it's a nightmare -- PCBs, DDT, dioxin, mercury, pesticides, antibiotics, and other gunk. And for stringent, health-focused vegans, one animal fat is as bad as another."
But as the writers explain, eating a vegan diet with the addition of healthy seafood can be a good option for some, particularly if you want to up your intake of essential omega-3 fatty acids.
While most vegans contend that these essential fatty acids can be found in certain plants, the writers make the valid point that vegetarian sources of omega-3s contain ALA -- a sort of pre-cursor omega-3 that needs to be converted to long-chained fatty acids like EPA and DHA in the body.
"All of this converting business requires quite a bit of metabolic elbow grease, isn't terribly efficient, and can slow down absorption -- leaving your body in want of the really good stuff, EPA and DHA," they write.
Instead, the pair opt for eating seafood three times a week in addition to their otherwise vegan diets -- but not just any seafood. The book provides a guide to the best seafood for getting optimal omega-3 -- a list that includes wild Alaska salmon, Arctic char, Atlantic mackerel, rainbow trout, black cod, anchovies, herring, sardines, and mussels -- and also delves into how a seagan can choose the best sustainable seafood.
The book -- which is rife with fishy puns -- serves as a guide for both vegans adding seafood to the diet and for those venturing toward a more plant-based way of life.
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Chapters explore the gamut--such as one explaining why one might opt for a vegan diet, another explores how to stock your cupboards, 21 days of menus, and how to cook fish quickly and easily. The book also widens its scope to include chapters on topics like how to dissect food labels, 23 vegan foods to ditch (none of these are surprising: "light" foods, french fries, nondairy creamer, donuts, candy, granola bars, and whipped topping all make the list), the health benefits of certain herbs and spices or nuts and seeds, the importance of organics, the dangers of GMOs, and the reality of superfoods. It's a lot to pack into one book, but for someone just venturing into this way of life, it's a detailed all-purpose guide to both the vegan diet and fish diet sides of seaganism.
The book also includes a nice variety of recipes, complete with recipe hacks for prepping in advance. The recipes include both fish recipes and vegan recipes, for balance (you're only supposed to be eating fish three times a week).
When choosing recipes to test, I was forced to opt out of many because they called for cashew cream, and I don't have a high-speed blender. More than 20 of the recipes in the book call for this vegan ingredient, so if you don't have the tool, be aware. I was, however, intrigued by the crab mac and cheese, made with cashew cream, cauliflower, sweet potato, nutritional yeast, and almond milk, and I nearly attempted the crab-and-spinach stuffed portobello mushrooms with an immersion blender before selecting the three recipes I ended up trying, none of which called for a high-speed blender.
Most of the fish dishes allow you to swap in whatever fish is looking good at the market, which is a good thing when you're trying to shop sustainably. I opted for cod when making the Southwestern halibut in foil, a simple recipe that unites black beans, corn, and tomatoes. The parchment cooking technique was a breeze, but while the dish does include cilantro, I would have liked some spices -- I'm thinking cumin, cayenne and a bit of coriander -- to liven up the flavors.
Next up, I tried the shrimp fried rice. I was skeptical at first, as there is absolutely no oil or fat in this dish -- something that the writers outline in depth within the book. Still, I followed the instructions and was rewarded with a dish that was full of flavor and texture. My only caveat with this one? I had to disobey the instruction to cook the shrimp for 10 minutes. I paid good money for those babies, and I didn't want them to come out tasting like erasers. Three minutes was more than sufficient.
Finally, I tried the soy-ginger halibut with bok choy in foil. Again, I opted for cod, and for want of bok choy at my local market, I substituted broccoli. This was the most disappointing recipe of the lot, though I think it has great potential. The sauce was far too salty with the amount of soy sauce called for, and yet the fish ended up fairly devoid of flavor on its own. When I make this dish again, I'll marinate the fish for half an hour before baking it, and I'll be sure to cut back on the amount of soy sauce I use.
All in all, this book is a helpful guide for those who are just beginning to venture into a quasi vegan diet or plant-based way of eating. As the writers explain, "Seaganism is both approachable and -- we believe -- the new gold standard for healthful eating."
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Grilled Salmon image via Shutterstock